Truck drivers’ strike enters third week
THE truck and freight drivers’ strike, involving more than 20,000 people, could become the most devastating labour conflict in South Africa this year as the stayaway enters its third week.
At the weekend, the Road Freight Employers Association (RFEA) failed to agree on a deal with unions. This means the country’s petrol suppliers will have to rely on a reserve fleet for another week, and consumers will be frustrated by more filling stations that have run dry.
On Friday, fuel company Shell declared force majeure on fuel deliveries in Gauteng because of the strike.
"There is fuel available across the country, so the issue is not fuel supply, but the challenge is delivering it safely to our retail sites," it said.
Force majeure allows the company and its customers to break contracts due to situations beyond their control.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, group communications manager at Sasol, said on Friday there had been "some disruptions" to fuel deliveries.
There were also concerns on Friday that a sympathy strike could begin at South Africa’s ports.
The biggest of the striking unions, the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), has over the past two weeks claimed it had support for a sympathy strike.
"We are talking to our members in the ports and rail sectors to join in a secondary strike. We will stop all imports and exports from moving in and out of South Africa," said Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu.
On Friday, Eskom CEO Brian Dames told delegates at the South African Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s annual convention that the country’s coal deliveries would come under pressure.
Eskom wanted to raise the level of its coal supplies before the arrival of the summer rainy season. About 25%-30% of the coal it uses is transported on trucks.
"Our concern is that if this (strike) continues ... our build-up process is a bit impeded," Mr Dames said.
Economists have struggled to estimate the cost of the strike so far, as it is far-reaching, but say it could reach hundreds of millions of rand.
"Strikes are putting pressure on the economy when it needs a stronger performance from manufacturing and mining," said Marina Willemse at Efficient Research.
Meganomics economist Colen Garrow said all the strikes in the country combined this year could shave 0.5% off overall growth for the year.
The RFEA won an interdict on Friday in which the Labour Court in Johannesburg ordered strikers to refrain from violence and said union leaders had to marshal workers. The association failed, however, in its attempt to get the court to end the strike.
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